Saving the skatepark

Group raising funds for pipe, upgrade

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Nestled in the west corner of the paved parking lot in Howelsen Hill is a smallish skatepark with features older than some of the boarders that use them.

Jon Casson and the other members of the Steamboat Skatepark Alliance are in the process of changing that.

The newly formed advocacy group is dedicated to renovating and upgrading Howelsen Skatepark. To that news, young skateboarders Nick Power, 11, and Conor Garrecht-Connelly, 11, threw their arms in the air.

"I come here every day, so I would love it," Power said.

Pending final city approval, the first planned upgrade is the installation of a new mini-ramp three times the size of the one that had to be torn down for failing to meet a safety inspection.

The mini-halfpipe will have two sections connected by a spine transition that opens itself to another realm of tricks, Casson said. The smaller pipe will be 12 feet wide and stand 3 to 4 feet high. The larger pipe will be 24 feet wide and stand 4 to 5 feet high.

The mini-halfpipe will be added to the existing park in a grassy area already painted off in orange paint.

The SSpA has raised $17,000 to begin construction of the pipe this summer, but an additional $7,000 is needed to complete it, Casson said.

A mini-halfpipe is one thing Power and Garrecht-Connelly said the Howelsen Skatepark desperately needs.

"Mini-ramps are my favorite thing to skate," Power said.

Casson didn't have exact numbers, but he estimated between 40 and 50 riders -- young and old -- use the skatepark daily during the summer, making it one of the busiest parks in Steamboat Springs.

In addition, the SSpA is looking to raise funds to replace the aging street features on the east and west ends of the park. Some have been there for more than a decade.

Longterm, Casson said, the board members of the SSpA hope to work with local skaters, businesses and the city to construct a complete concrete park similar to the large-scale ones in Aspen and Silverthorne.

The demand is there. It's not uncommon to see skateboarders at the existing park from dawn until dusk.

Occasionally, a teen backs his or her car up to the fence and plays music through the open windows or trunk. The younger ones bring their boards on a bike or just ride from home.

Casson remembers that life. He grew up skateboarding in the Washington, D.C., area. He got back into the sport in his early 20s, so he understands its appeal.

"Skateboarding is about going out and having fun with friends and pushing each other," he said. "Skateboarding gives kids the opportunity to gain self-confidence and self-esteem and practice a sport they enjoy. It's incredibly popular. If we are going to provide recreational opportunities, we need to provide for everyone."

The desire to open up the sport to more individuals prompted Casson, Patrick Hargrove and Greg Musso to start the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Summer Recreational Skateboard Club. Casson is the head junior ability snowboard coach. Hargrove and Musso are assistants with the SSWSC.

Originally, the trio planned on just enough interest to spend one day riding in the skatepark. But there was enough demand -- 26 children and teenagers are involved -- that they had to add another night.

But it's not just snowboarders like Power who got involved in the skateboard club. Alpine, Nordic and freestyle skiers, such as Garrecht-Connelly, also were drawn to the summer club.

"I like skateboarding because if I'm bored, I can come out and skate and have competitions," Garrecht-Connelly said.

Skateboarding is a great cross-training tool for winter sport enthusiasts, Casson said, so it was a logical club to offer. If anything, skateboarding is more difficult than snowboarding.

"It's so hard to get those skills because your feet aren't attached to the board," Casson said.

In turn, those who participate in skateboarding notice improvements in balance and body-eye coordination. Mentally, their confidence increases with every trick they learn.

The Steamboat Skatepark Alliance is hosting a meeting and forum for those interested in the future of skateboard parks in Steamboat at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Olympian Hall in the Howelsen Hill Lodge.

The SSpA is accepting donations to help renovate the Howelsen Skatepark through the Yampa Valley Community Foundation. For more information on the SSpA, contact Casson at 846-1599 or jcasson1@comcast.net.

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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